Why pirating movies on SpaceX’s Starlink service is not a good idea

SpaceX’s satellite Internet broadband service Starlink will warn its customers when they illegally download copyrighted content.

This is based on the experience of one Starlink customer who was curious to see whether the company would enforce its piracy policy.

The user – who goes by the name of substrate-97 on Reddit – posted about a warning he received from the service after many days of downloading torrents without using a VPN.

“Been doing it since I got Starlink, so like two months. It’s been pretty low key stuff though,” he said.

“Finally downloaded something from a Fortune 500 company and my assumption was that it was specifically that [which triggered the alert].”

The generated alert was supposedly sent after he had torrented a CBS show.

Starlink told the user that it had been notified by a content owner claiming that his Starlink Internet service was used to download its copyrighted material.

“We must insist that you and/or others using your Starlink service refrain from illegal downloads of copyrighted content,” Starlink stated.

“Downloading copyrighted materials without a license may lead to suspension or termination of your service, and put you at risk of legal action by the content owner.”

The following image is a screenshot of the warning that substrate-97 received.

SpaceX’s acceptable use policy (AUP) in the US states that users may not store any material or use Starlink in any manner that constitutes an infringement of third-party intellectual property rights, including those covered by copyright law.

This is based on Section 512 of the country’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Under these laws, ISPs in the US are required to issue an alert to users of their services who torrent copyrighted content, and must take appropriate steps to resolve the issue.

The notice to substrate-97 reveals that Starlink, like other ISPs, will also try to prevent illegal torrenting.

Local impact

Starlink users in South Africa who like to pirate content could possibly expect similar alerts once it goes live in the country in 2022.

In addition, Starlink may in fact be expected to report instances of illegal torrenting to law enforcement agencies.

This is what could happen once South Africa’s Cybercrimes Bill, which has already been approved by Parliament and is due to be signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa, comes into effect.

Senior associate at law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, Fatima Ameer-Mia, previously said that the bill – which has already been approved by Parliament- covered copyright infringement under the theft of incorporeal property – which is effectively pirating.

“Basically if it is a cyber offence – which copyright infringement is – then the obligation on electronic communications service providers, including notification and obligation to report will apply,” she said.

She added that it is unlikely that a company would proactively hand over information, but if a cybercrime or one of these offences becomes public, they will be forced to comply for reputational purposes.

Now read: Starlink passes half a million orders

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Why pirating movies on SpaceX’s Starlink service is not a good idea